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Mahoning, Trumbull counties put faith, funds in Regional Chamber

Commissioners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties said they opted for paid contracts with the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber because they believe in the chamber’s mission and want to support its work to bring development to the Mahoning Valley.

“We’ve always worked with the chamber to bring business to the community, they always have an ear to the ground and bring in different deals. We decided to shore up and put our money where our mouth is and support the chamber financially. They represent our needs on a regional basis and work to bring jobs to the area,” said Anthony Traficanti, Mahoning County commissioner.

Sarah Boyarko, chief operating officer and senior vice president of economic development for the chamber, said while the chamber works to bring economic development to the entire area regardless of whether a community has a contract with them, Trumbull and Mahoning counties are investing funds with the chamber because they recognize the value the organization brings and because of other support the chamber can offer.

“They support our overall economic efforts, and so they are an investor in our activities and support our overall efforts. And we offer support, we can supply them with facts and figures for public forums and grant applications. They believe in the chamber’s ability to spur economic development and support the work we do,” Boyarko said.

The counties both are paying $23,000 per year to the chamber, after entering into agreements earlier this year. It was the first year Mahoning County entered a paid contract, and did so through the Mahoning County Community Improvement Corp., which is jointly operated by the Western Reserve Port Authority and Mahoning County commissioners.

Mauro Cantalamessa, Trumbull County commissioner, said the chamber was vital in getting several businesses to the area, and conducts other work that helps existing businesses grow.

“The chamber remains the lead entity for business attraction and retention for our county. Our partnership allows us to work with existing businesses on their specific needs through routine site visits and a variety of business services. Also, we are able to showcase and market our assets to attract new businesses. Industries like Matalco, Old Dominion, Laird Technologies, and most recently the Ultium battery plant are some examples of how our partnership has worked to secure new investment and create more jobs,” Cantalamessa said.

When new businesses come to a specific town, the positive effects can be felt in the entire county and in neighboring communities, Boyarko said.

“Wherever that company lands, there is a benefit in that community and a myriad of indirect benefits in the county — employment, supply chain, spending in the community. There is a greater, overall economic impact,” Boyarko said.

Boyarko said the chamber provides the communities with updates on their activities, including work they do to retain and expand businesses, attract businesses and site tours they give. The chamber also advocates for the region in Columbus.

The chamber also has contracts with Girard and Weathersfield Township for more in-depth economic development activities, Boyarko said.

Girard contributes $10,000 per year, and has seen results in projects and in efforts to revitalize the Route 422 corridor, said Mayor James Melfi.

“The 422 corridor consists of the city of Youngstown and the city of Girard and is historically an industrial area, vital to both communities. The 422 coordinator goes beyond just the border and extends into each city,” Melfi said.

The partnership led to the demolition and cleanup of an abandoned gas station and grant applications for cleanups.

“The cleanup of the gas station alone is well in the six figures and is not completed yet. It’s been an excellent partnership,” Melfi said.

David Rouan, Weathersfield township administrator, said the township contributes $9,000 a year.

“The regional chamber has been and continues to be a great partner and has indeed helped secure funding for a number of projects in our community. Two of the larger projects have included $65,000 for a police transport van and $150,000 for phase one of the community center. They also help us with our community newsletter and lobbying in Columbus on our behalf,” Rouan said.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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